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When should I start plotting my novel?

By Jill Steves

If you're a pantser (i.e., you write by the seat of your pants and don't plan), you might not start plotting your novel until you're already a few chapters in. On the other hand, if you're a plotter (someone who pre-defines a detailed plot), you might start mapping out your story before you even start writing. So when should you start plotting your novel?

A story plotter in action

The boring answer is that there isn't a right or wrong answer, but your experience while writing your novel will influence this.

If you're feeling inspired, you should jump straight into writing your pages and not stop until you run out of juice. (You might even jump around to different scenes and acts if you know what's going to happen.) You might even finish an entire first draft this way.

But if you start to struggle part way through, or things just aren't feeling right, it might be time to take a step back and do some planning, taking into account all the things you do like about your draft so far. You don't have to produce a complete out-line, but maybe outlining up until where you got stuck might clarify some things for you.

On the flip side, it's also perfectly fine to plan out your story's major beats first (perhaps with the help of Story Path!) before writing a single word. You might even break things down to the chapter-level, or fill out a beat sheet.

Preview of Story Path

And if you're enjoying this process, you should keep going! But don't lose sight of what you're trying to achieve, which is to write a story! There are many romantic tales of authors who created entire languages and built entire worlds and races before writing a single word… and if that's your jam, more power to you! But always keep your true end-goal in sight.

The final thing to remember for both kinds of writers is that there will be a second draft. Once you have your first draft finished, we all need to go back and see what themes came out, what our character arcs were, and generally where the plot went. Then you can form an action plan for your revisions that will help build up these themes and throughlines and have a great story!

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Posted in Learn to Write on 2022-06-07 11:33:57 - story structure,planning,plotting,plotter,pantser,writing apps,writing software
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